THE Community Working Group on Health (CWGH) Executive Director, Mr Itai Rusike has urged government to mobilse enough financial resources to procure Kaletra, an Antiretroviral (ARV) drug that has proven effective in treating Coronavirus (COVID-19) as part of its preparedness to deal with the deadly bug.
By Michael Gwarisa
The disease has hit at least 70 countries, with 90,000 cases and 3,100 deaths. The vast majority of cases and deaths have been in China. While the number of new cases recorded daily in that epicenter country has declined for weeks, the virus continues to spread fast in South Korea, Iran and Italy, prompting increased travel warnings and restrictions.
In a statement, Mr Rusike said in as much as government had assured the nation that it is prepared to deal with the virus should it come, more still needed t be done.
“We would like to applaud the government for taking precautionary measures against the contagious COVID-19 that has killed hundreds of people across the world, but mainly in China. We are, however, still deeply worried by the country’s level of preparedness in the event that the deadly disease hits the country. The country’s vulnerability is real considering that our health delivery system has virtually collapsed.
“The government needs to source more antiretroviral (ARVs) drugs and intensify awareness campaigns through providing accurate information to its citizens about the disease. We learnt with relief, but certainly with some skepticism, that the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) has secured enough ARVs, Kaletra that has proven to be effective in treating Coronavirus (COVID-19). The skepticism is premised on the fact that there is a critical shortage of ART for people living with HIV/AIDS. Can Zimbabwe stock enough ARVs in preparation for COVID-19 when already it cannot meet the current demand for the drug” said Mr Rusike.
He added that some people were struggling to get the drugs on time while others get a two week’s supply because they are in short supply and this presents itself as an obstacle in the fight against the virus.
“On another note, CWGH stresses the importance of raising awareness about the disease. People need to know how to protect themselves from COVID-19 by following basic hand hygiene and respiratory hygiene such as sneezing or coughing into the elbow, not hands. Currently, most communities do not know such basic information about the disease – the causes, symptoms; preventative and treatment measures.
“Certainly, this calls for enhanced awareness campaigns through radios, television; and distribution of posters, fliers, billboards and posting information on social media platforms. Church and political gatherings must be used to spread information about the virus.
Right now there is barely enough public information on radio or television on COVID-19.”
He also called on government to scale up awareness campaigns in communities in the form of o fliers, pamphlets or billboards around the country about the disease.
“Should the disease hit Zimbabwe, where do people get the masks and how are they put on? Do they use the ordinary masks or gloves or there are special ones? CWGH is very concerned with the country’s ability to protect its citizens from the virus considering its weak health delivery system characterized by antiquated laboratory equipment, shortages of drugs, shortage of test kits and protective gear, a de-motivated health staff, regular power outages at health institutions and ports of entry and the scanty information available on
public spaces about the disease.
“Where would one get confidence that the country can contain the virus when hospitals cannot even dispense paracetamol?
Zimbabwe has seen an uptick of visitors from China in the past decade, both through tourism and because China increased investments locally after the country adopted the “Look-East Policy.” And, the country’s porous land borders remain a cause for concern as unchecked migration and transport between countries could spread the virus quickly.”
He also said the CWGH calls for robust awareness-raising campaigns and careful monitoring of the current situation to prevent the disease from spreading into the country. People must be provided with current, accurate and correct information about the disease.